Rory McIlroy says his game is better than last year
Northern Irish champion insists his game is in better shape than last year despite British Open flop as he prepares to defend his US PGA title
Rory McIlroy says that despite his struggles this year he goes into his PGA Championship title defence feeling better than he did last year about his game.
The Northern Irishman endured a nightmare 79 in the first round of last month's British Open that had him describing himself as "brain dead" and "unconscious" on his way to missing the cut at Muirfield.
McIlroy, 24, who reached the halfway point at this week's World Golf Championships Bridgestone Invitational in Akron, Ohio, in one over par after rounds of 70 and 71, has been adjusting to new equipment in a season that has seen him struggle to share 25th at the Masters and 41st at the US Open, and is trying to calm himself about a year of frustrations after four wins last year.
"I've become a little bit too emotionally involved with my golf over the past few months," McIlroy said. "I've let it either get me excited or get me down, where I should really just not get too high or too low about it at all.
"Sometimes I get a little bit too excited about a good shot and a little bit too down about a bad shot. Just trying to keep it more on an even keel and not get too excited about a bad round or a good round."
McIlroy insists his season can still be turned around, just as he made last year's campaign something special with his second career major title at the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island, a triumph followed by two wins in the US PGA Tour play-offs.
"I was sitting up here this time last year probably not feeling as if my game was in great shape, and I'm sitting up here this year a lot more positive, so that's a great sign," McIlroy said.
"I actually feel I'm in better spirits about my golf game this year than I was this time last year. I was searching and really trying to figure out what I needed to do with my golf game to get it back where I wanted.
"This year I definitely don't feel like I'm searching for as many answers. I don't feel like I'm looking for at many things and it's just a matter of letting it all happen on the golf course.
"It's definitely close. It's just a matter of it all clicking into place and whether that's over one round or one week or whatever it is, I definitely don't feel like it's too far away."
McIlroy admits that after missing the cut at the British Open, he felt miserable.
"I was obviously a little bit despondent after those two days," McIlroy said. "But it's something you just leave in the past. It's not something you dwell on at all. I've left it behind. I'm looking forward to the rest of the year.
"I've got a lot of great events coming up and events that I did well at last year. So hopefully those positive memories can see me through and I can start to play the golf that I know that I can."
McIlroy spent four days in Monaco after Muirfield, then went home to work with coach Michael Bannon and golf with some friends for fun.
"It's nice to go out and play for the sake of playing, not playing because you have to or play because whatever, just go out and play and enjoy and play some courses that I played growing up," McIlroy said.
"It makes you realise why you play the game. It makes you realise why you started, because you love the game."
McIlroy said he had not heard South African Gary Player's comment that McIlroy needed to "find the right wife" to help his game, which was likely to be a comment as much about his own 56-year marriage as McIlroy's romance with tennis ace Caroline Wozniacki.
"I don't know what you're talking about," McIlroy said. "I have the utmost respect for Gary. He's one of the greatest champions that I've ever seen."